June 21, 2013

Reporting from NN on unions: How the URSCR, the most powerful union in America, is destroying our country

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:10 pm

Here at the Netroots nation convention in San Jose, CA, the presence of various American labor unions are in evidence everywhere.

The National Education Association tells us a sad story about how 300,000 American teachers have been laid off in recent years — ever since No Child Left Behind decided to leave teachers behind too.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America says that they are ready, willing and able to put our country back to work, “rebuilding America’s energy systems, crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems.” Isn’t it time for them to finally start implementing our “Rooftop Revolution” and bring solar power into every home?

The Alliance for American Manufacturing demands the creation of more stuff that is “Made in America” — and I have their key chain to prove it too. “Make corporations pledge to move jobs back to the United States where they belong.” It’s as simple as that.

The SEIU gave a Karaoke party here. I got to sing along with 2 Chainz — and support American workers at the same time.

The unions here at Netroots Nation all represent good people, strong workers and proud Americans, trying to put the American economy back together again.

But there is one union in America that did not come to Netroots Nation.

There is one union in America that is doing everything it can to block our American economy from moving forward.

There is one union in America that goes on strike constantly, for months at a time, even though these strikes severely damage our country.

There is one union in America that bullies and threatens its members to keep them in line.

There is one union in Americ that misappropriates its members funds — and even outright steals them if it thinks it can get away with it.

There is one union in America that is lazy, self-serving, corrupt, inefficient and determined to destroy the very fabric of our country whenever it can.

“What union is that?” you might ask.

It’s the URSCR, of course. The Union of Republican Senators and Congressional Representatives. And Washington DC is their union town.

PS: I’m currently attending a workshop on “Red-White-and-Blue-Washing,” wherein our good American jobs are being all shipped overseas and yet corporations try to make it appear that these jobs are being created at home. NOT.

Thanks again, URSCR.

June 8, 2012

By the Rivers of Babylon: More Netroots Nation reports

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 7:00 pm

“And there we wept…when we remembered Zion.”

Today at the second day of Netroots Nation convention in Providence, Rhode Island, there were all kinds of panels to attend and films and presentations to watch — and they all seemed to have the same common theme: That Americans need to start working together instead of going for each others’ jugulars with red-white-and-blue tooth and claw.

During the American Transit Workers union’s presentation of a documentary on the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that included video footage from the Lorraine Motel, with tears in my eyes, I remembered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s heroic bravery and wisdom.

“We are facing a two-headed creature here,” King said. “He is a labor-union hater with one mouth and a civil-rights hater with the other.” The ATW also gave out free ice cream at the showing as well. Dove bars. Dulce de leche. And chocolate chip cookies. No kale chips? Huh? What is this world coming to.

Then someone in the audience at a panel discussion on undocumented Americans stated that, “Sure, people of color have it hard these days — but we ALL have it hard. And we all need to unite in common cause to make sure that all of our voices are heard as we face the greatest challenges of our life; as the One Percent tries to drown out the American Dream for the rest of us — all the while trying to make us believe that they are on our side and are truly our friends.”

Uh, no, they are not. Make no mistake here. The One percent are NOT our friends. Never have been. Never will be.

“And the wicked carried us away…captivity.”

According to Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren who also spoke today, the One Percent’s philosophy, in one sentence, is “I’ve got mine — but you are on your own.” Why would we want to give the rich and powerful even more power and more money? “We don’t run this country for corporations. We run it for people.”

And then another free lunch was offered to us conventioneers. I’m so there!

“On 9-11,” said one firefighters’ union rep at an afternoon panel presentation, “it wasn’t the bankers running up those stairs. It was government workers there saving lives.”

In my own personal opinion, stuff like Wall Street deregulation and the Koch brothers and ALEC and Citizens Untied are the worst things that have ever happened to America’s freedom. These oligarchs’ highly-planned and highly-coordinated attacks on our laws, freedoms and way of life have been far more disastrous, far more scary and far more EFFECTIVE than 9-11 ever was.

There are also many massive and coordinated attacks on unions these days. And on women. And on people of color. And response to these attacks has been for us to viciously begin fighting each other for crumbs falling off these rich men’s tables. How American is that!

So. How do we now unite together instead of fighting each other? “Let’s organize around universal similarities,” one panelist said. We all love our families (at least most of us do) and we all have to eat. We all have emotions. We all need to breathe clean air and send our kids to school. “So mix all that up and come out with some common denominators that we can all rally behind.” We all love a good free lunch. Would that do for a start?

Americans of all colors and shapes and sizes have so much more in common with each other than we do with those few oligarchs who are currently spending billions of dollars on trying to turn us against one another. Come on guys. Get a clue! Kumbayah here! Everyone — every one of us — wants the American Dream. So let’s work together to get it back.

“Let the words of our mouth and the meditations in our hearts… WE’VE GOT TO SING TOGETHER!” Or the wicked will continue to “carry us away…captivity”. For sure.

So let’s “Sing a song of Freedom!” instead.

PS: This evening the AFT is offering a presentation of the movie, “American Teacher,” and then I’ll be taking the bus back to my sweet little room at the Warwick Motel 6 where I can listen to the people in the neighboring room fight and make up all night long.

And tomorrow Paul Krugman, Sherrod Brown and Van Jones will be speaking. Then on Sunday Netroots Nation will have a day of service and join the mayor of Providence in trudging around some kind of swamp, cleaning up garbage. And will they feed us? Yes they will!


June 7, 2012

Report from Netroots Nation: What would a new economic system look like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:23 pm

I finally arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, late last night — after being forced to switch planes in Chicago after spilling my salmon salad to the point where the entire cabin smelled like dead fish. Ah, the power of change.

The first workshop that I attended this morning had to do with trying to design a new economic system that works for all of us, not just for fat cats and oligarchs at the top.

“An economy based solely on growth doesn’t works,” stated one panel member. “What’s another word for out-of-control growth? ‘Cancer’. In Bhutan, the economy is based on happiness instead.” We should try that, seeing that America currently rates only number 44 on a world-wide happiness scale.

What I hate most about America’s economy now is that it is based on our love affair with obscene-profits-at-any-cost. That’s no way to run a country — or a world! My suggestion? Let’s duplicate nationally on a legal precedence set in California a few years ago, citing that medical marijuana clinics are forbidden to make any profits. And as a result, all the clinics’ profits are plowed back into the business.

This new business paradigm is immeasurably better than our current Vulture Capitalism system, where American businesses and companies are not nourished at all — but only stripped of their infrastructure, assets and ability to either compete with the rest of the world or to serve their customers.

If you visualize America itself as an industry, for many years now it has been stripped of both its capital and its infrastructure. Just compare the economic semi-ruin that America is now with the thriving industrial giant that it used to be. Vulture Capitalism has sucked the life out of our country. Vulture Capitalism sucks eggs.

At the Harborside medical cannabis clinic in Oakland, all profits are returned back into the business — creating more jobs, more services and more equity for itself and its customers. In comparison, when has America’s war industry, stock market casino, oil barons or banking cartel ever given anything back?

Next on the menu at Netroots Nation was the showing of a documentary film on rape in the military. Currently, there is a really good chance that if a woman joins the military, she will be raped. And that no one will ever do anything about it. Thousands of female soldiers are being raped every year by their own freaking co-workers. And the good-ole-boys’ network now in place on most military bases simply laughs it all off. That’s just sad.

Perhaps the Republicans’ current War on Women is based on the original War on Women in the Military model? It appears that it is.

Tonight at Netroots Nation, we are going to hear Eric Schneiderman, Bill McKibben and Tammy Baldwin speak. Then I’m gonna take the # 8 bus to a place far, far away, to my little Motel 6 room out in Warwick, where I will dream of a better America and better days than we have now — a better world where the War on the working class and women will be replaced by a War on cruelty, inefficiency and greed.

PS: You can actually watch Netroots Nation too, being streamed live here:


June 28, 2011

America needs JOBS: And holding Washington’s feet to the fire is OUR job

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 12:21 pm

At the Minneapolis Netroots Nation convention of progressive bloggers last week, the main focus was on America’s current crippled job market, our current high unemployment rates and the desperate need to create new jobs here in America (not offshore) — and as well it should be.

First Howard Dean spoke, and here’s what my notes say that he said: “We are still all about electing Democrats to Washington. But once they get there, however, we need to hold their feet to the fire. We, not the people in Washington, are the only ones who can make the change we can believe in. And we need to be working toward a vision bigger than ourselves — community, security and liberty. We need security from the need for foreign oil, and freedom from religious bigots telling us what to do.”

Yes, Dean actually said that. He actually called out the religious bigots — instead of pandering to them like Palin, Bush and Gingrich have done. No wonder the corporatists and fright-wingers fought so hard against Dean getting elected in 2004.

“We can’t count on politicians to stand up to the monied interests. So we must do it ourselves, building a small-picture movement based on a big-picture vision.” And part of that big-picture vision is one where America doesn’t eliminate and/or outsource its jobs.

Then Senator Russell Feingold spoke next. “There is too much corporate dominance in America today. But corporate power has been rocked by the internet — and they were terrified that we might stop the flow of soft money campaign contributions and fiscal deregulation. Then along came Citizens United and now we’ve been taken back to the old Gilded Age of the robber barons — only it is now a Gilded Age on steroids. But together we can stand up to corporate power.”

Yeah. And we can bring our outsourced jobs back home to America too. You can’t stand up to corporate dominance quite as fiercely if you don’t have a job.

No wonder the corporatists and the fright-wingers fought so hard to get rid of Senator Feingold. He represents us — not them.

Then I took a bus ride back to where I was staying over on the other side of the Mississippi River (which, BTW, runs right through the middle of Minneapolis) and I got to chatting with the bus driver, who also held down another job as a firefighter. “I work two jobs,” he said — and boy was he pissed off about all the recent forced budget cuts to municipal services.

“Your firefighting job is in danger?”

“Yes,” he said. And that was a very definite YES — a very angry-sounding yes. “I’m tired of bailing out Wall Street and financing endless wars. What do people think they’re going to do if their house catches on fire? Call a banker? Call 911 and have a war-profiteer show up?”

Yeah. So. Jobs. After listening to various speeches at NN 2011, talking to various other bloggers from all over America and hearing the sad tales of several local working men and women, I was starting to get the idea. Many private-sector jobs have been outsourced overseas already and now public-sector jobs are in danger. America is becoming a nation of the rich and the poor.

And speaking of being poor, I also had a long talk with a local homeless guy. “I like being homeless,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m free, that I’m my own man. I sleep out under the stars.”

“But what about during the winters?” Winters are apparently rather fierce in Minnesota — ten degrees below zero for weeks on end.

“Then I just ride the buses all night.” It’s a good thing that this guy likes being homeless — because he can set a good example for the rest of us who may be facing involuntary homelessness pretty soon. We all could be like him in a couple of years if the corporatists and their fright-wing minions have their way.

Then Rep. Alan Grayson gave a speech and he really brought the problem of America’s lack of jobs into focus. “There are five things that you need to be Middle Class in America. You need a home, a car, a pension plan, healthcare and a job. And the Republican party refuses to support anything that will help you get any of these five. And right now you only have three friends in life: God, your mama and the Democratic Party.” And, apparently, you only have the Democratic Party if you hold its feet to the fire.

No wonder the corporatists and fright-wingers worked so hard to get rid of Grayson too.

There were other speakers on Grayson’s panel, including Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Raul Grijalva — on the first leg of a nation-wide tour. And each speaker gave us a a verbal snapshot of the pathetic state of America’s current job market.

I forget who said what during this panel but here is the gist: “This is a war between the greediest people on the planet and the rest of us. If we take this message out to America, however, we WILL win! It’s time to stop the politics of scarcity and go for the politics of generosity. There IS enough for everyone. We need to make jobs the main issue. If you’re not talking about putting America back to work, then you are talking about nothing. It is NOT okay to destroy personal lives just to make a profit. That is the definition of evil. And these are the people who are in charge of America today. The priorities in Washington DC need to match the priorities in the rest of America!”

Rep. Grijalva then added, “Various hot-button issues have been used in a very cynical way to divide America from the good of the many to the good of the few. The next election will define our nation for generations to come — and we must define America for the common good.”
The top one percent of people in America just got ten percent richer, I was told. And the rest of us only got threatened with unemployment. Screw that. No wonder the corporatists and the fright-wingers are working so hard to get rid of these progressive members of Congress. And now they are trying really hard to get rid of you and me too — starting with our jobs

PS: I also want a job! Does anyone out there have any use for a 68-year-old unemployed blogger?

PPS: When progressives talk about jobs, we are talking about REAL jobs — not just the phony jobs that corporatists are always campaigning about but which in real life turn out to be only more low-paying jobs performed by prison inmates or more jobs sent overseas or more jobs where billionaires only need apply or jobs only for corporatists’ relatives or simply just more TALK about jobs.


July 24, 2010

Believe it or not: Nancy Pelosi’s speech to Netroots Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 1:38 pm

The water here in Las Vegas sucks eggs. My tea tastes like metal. And the sad thing is that the water power to the 27th floor of the Rio hotel is so weak that I have to run my bath water for 15 minutes before it becomes even warm — let alone hot. What a waste of the Ogalala aquifer. It breaks my heart to see all that water go down the drain. But will I just break down and take a cold shower? Would you? Er, no.

With a shower or not, it was still time to go listen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talk. Would she convince me that Congress isn’t being run by special interests and theat she, Harry Reid and President Obama haven’t sold out? Will they convince you? Let’s see. Here are my quickly-typed-up notes — from the front row. They may not be completely accurate, however. Blame that on my tenth-grade typing teacher.

When Nancy Pelosi came onstage, the first big question was whether her right-wing detractors were correct and she did have a face-lift. It was hard to tell. She does have a big smile. Maybe she was born that way?

“Pushing the gate open on healthcare was a big job but we did it. The leverage in Congress had to change from being in favor of the insurance companies to being in favor of the people. And we couldn’t have done it without you.” Without me? Am I finally getting some recognition? That would be nice.

But wait. Has Rush Limbaugh gotten a face-lift? Do I get the right to ask that about him? And what about Dick Cheney? How come I don’t look as good at that age? “Because Cheney eats babies…” someone once said. But I digress.

OMG! They are gonna play a tape sent to us by President Obama! “We’ve been working hard for the past 18 months but I know that, for many of you, change hasn’t come fast enough. But it took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to make it happen. But in ways large and small, we are working to make changes happen.” Then the Pres showed a tape of Rachel Maddow listing all of this administration’s accomplishments.

“We’re moving America forward,:” the President continued. “And that’s the challenge we face in November. Keep holding me accountable. Change doesn’t come from the top down. It comes from the bottom up. Let’s finish what we’ve started.”

At the news stand here, the Globe (a National Enquirer wannabe) is pushing a front cover story that Obama was actually born in KENYA. They are still pushing that story? Give me a break.

“Will we see passage of ENDA any time soon?” someone asked Pelosi.

“It’s almost embarrassing that it took Congress so long to pass a bill eliminating hate crimes. We’re very proud that we passed a repeal of ‘Don’t ask Don’t tell’ in the house. When we started work on hate crimes, it was 22 years ago and we’re still against any form of hate crime.”

Pelosi then encouraged us to be leaders in this field of ending all discrimination in this country. “We won the ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal by 40 votes. That’s a big majority.” And there’s an education bill in the works too — the Promise Act. Good.

“Republican senators have held up many job-creation bills, so we never know what will go on in the Senate — so we been pushing education bills into other bills as well. But we are still pressing for a comprehensive education bill.”

Pelosi is also pressing for comprehensive immigration reform. “What is happening in Arizona shouts out for getting a comprehensive bill passed. We have to keep the heat on for that.”

Protecting Social Security? “I am opposed to raising the retirement age. Here’s the context. We must be fiscally responsible and subject our spending to harsh scrutiny and are moving on all fronts to remove the deficit. But talking about Social Security and the deficit is like between apples and oranges. To change Social Security in order to balance the budget, they aren’t the same thing in my view. As we make it more solvent, it will have a positive impact on the deficit. But we support Social Security. Our senior citizens should know that. This is its 75th anniversary.”

When Social Security was first implemented, Frances Perkins went to Pres Roosevelt and told him about her plan, and he replied, “You’ve convinced me completely. Now make me do it.”

“We can do only so much maneuvering,” Pelosi continued, “but we really do need outside persuasion. Just ourselves alone can’t make this happen. If you want these changes to come, make us do it.”

In 2008, the president was inaugurated and he called for swift action. One week and one day after that, this congress passed the recovery act that saved 1.6 million jobs. “And we are going forward, not going back. Our goal is to reduce the deficit, reduce taxes for the middle class and to create jobs around climate change.”

The House passed the unemployment bill last December but the Senate held it up until now. “We have a whole list, all of it paid for, but they dropped all the job incentives and just sent us back the bare bones. They demanded cuts to this unemployment bill but then demanded 700 billion dollars in unpaid-for tax benefits for the rich. Thank God we made the bill retroactive. But how many people can wait the additional six weeks for that check to arrive? This delay was due to the obstructiveness of the Senate. But. We are going forward, not going back. Obama has created more jobs so far than Bush did during his entire eight years in office.

‘Jobs are important but people need to see what the Republicans are doing about this. Nothing.”

“We want more manufacturing in America — as a way to develop more jobs in America. Where our manufacturing heartland had been, we must stop the erosion of these jobs. 39 Republicans voted against our ‘Fairness to American Manufacturers’ bill. Anyone can bid on contracts here in the US so we are trying to get some reasonableness on this. In China you can’t bid on contracts if you are from outside the country. We need to do that here too. This is very exciting.”

The House is also working on a bill that will differentiate between crack and powdered cocaine.

“When I became Speaker, my flagship interest was energy self-sufficiency and climate change legislation. This is not an issue the Senate can walk away from. It is a national safety issue, a health issue. We are either going to lead the world on this issue or be left behind. We have a moral commitment to pass this planet onto the next generation.” Billions of dollars go out of the country each day because of foreign oil. The emissions continue. We have to continue this fight.”

“Do you plan to challenge big money’s special interests?” someone asked.

“No use bringing up a bill unless you can show strength. You can’t show weakness. Get up and show Congress how much this is of interest to you. It’s fundamental to a democracy. Make your voices known on this subject. We can maneuver and persuade and this and that — but remember Pres Roosevelt. Citizens United was a horrible decision. Foreign countries can now be having a large influence because of this, because there is now no full disclosure. PEOPLE [not corporatists] need to be in charge of our government. So let’s grab that ball and run with it. I like to show strength going to the floor. In 2006 and 2008, the leverage changed — to the consumers. The finance bill was the most important financial change in decades. And the most consumer protection in history. The leverage has changed. And in health too. For instance, it’s no longer a liability to be a woman.”

Regarding energy? “The oil patch, coal patch, every patch in the world was coming against us. This next election is very important. We need to have no regrets — that we took responsibility. One in fifty kids in America is homeless. We need to bring education and jobs to every level in America. Prosperity on Wall Street at the cost of jobs on Main Street? How dare they?”

Some Senators look with fondness on the Bush administration, according to Pelosi. “But we are not going back. We now represent the American middle class.”

Someone asked Pelosi about the role of women. “Running for office is not for the faint of heart. It’s all about power. Know your power. If you go out there to run, it’s difficult. But know who you are and don’t let anybody diminish your knowledge or experience. Women hold the key to our future. I was a mother of five kids in six years — so I got a sense of discipline and organization that way. We need young women at the seat of power. Some may not chose to go the family route but whatever your path, do it. Your presence at the seat of power is very important. Know YOUR power. What you bring to it. There is a whole change in what your daughters can do now. Young girls can go on to do anything and everything. And it’s their patriotic duty to step up.”

Pelosi is inspired by the women who went before her. “I went to the White House for my first meeting as a representative of the Democrats. I had no apprehensions because I’d been there before. I was sitting at the table of power and I felt packed and jammed on my chair. Sitting on the chair with me was Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Stanton, [etc.] All on that chair. And I could hear them say, ‘At last we have a seat at the table.’ And then they were gone. My first thought was, ‘We want more.’ We all understand our responsibility to women. We have every difference among us that we can name — but because we are different, we build a very strong fiber listening to each other. We all want to do great things for our country. We all strive for common ground. But if we can’t get bipartisanship, if we can’t get it, we are still not going back!”

And the speech was over and we applauded. But what did her speech mean? Did it mean that she is still a progressive and is merely being held back from creating a true American democracy by Republican fossils who regret that they can no longer live off of America’s blood and sweat like the vampires they are (no wonder vampire flicks are so popular among our youth!) Or has Pelosi, like so many of our other legislators, sold out to the corporatists who think that they own America — and probably do.

Time will tell. But for right now. Nancy Pelosi is pretty much all we’ve got standing between us and complete oligarchy and the total end of our American Dream. For this reason alone we may need to give her more support — and more snaps.

And last night I went to the Rio Hotel’s fake Mardi Gras celebration and caught two strings of beads from the krews. I would have caught another string but just as I reached out, so big young muscular guy elbowed me aside and snagged it for himself. Hmmm. Was he going to end up becoming a Republican senator too? More than likely. Edging out Social Security recipients is already his specialty it seems.

July 23, 2010

Decision time in Las Vegas: Governor Schweitzer or Big Brother?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 7:48 pm

I love watching Big Brother on TV. Why? Because all the lying and scheming, back-biting, greed and general nastiness that happens on the show reminds me of the way that Republicans tend to act. Watching Big Brother is definitely helping me to become a better progressive blogger.

And so when a conflict arose Thursday night between me watching Governor Bob Schweitzer speak to the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas or me hightailing it up to my hotel room to see if Matt or Monet would get voted out, I was torn — that is, until Governor Schweitzer actually started speaking. And then I became riveted. A herd of elephants couldn’t have dragged me out of my seat. The man is a born orator — or at least the best raconteur that I’ve ever heard.

First the governor spent a slow and leisurely ten minutes telling us about his 112-year-old friend Walt. Then he told us all about how he won the 4-H competition at the county fair when he was nine years old. Then he told us in colorful detail about how his grandmother had come over from Ireland all by herself at the tender age of 17. “Her name was Hannah — and she was the original Hannah Montana.”

Unlike the kind of “country folk” who live in suburban tract houses outside of places like Houston, Atlanta and Nashville but still try to pass themselves off as rural cowboys and who listen to multi-millionaire Rush Limbaugh as he too tries to act “down-home,” Governor Schweitzer has been a farmer and rancher all his life and actually is the real thing. And, even better, the governor doesn’t have to build his own self up by putting other people down.

Governor Schweitzer wants the best for Montana — and for America too. And he didn’t need to sell out his American ideals and become a narrow-minded bigot or a cold-hearted compassion-challenged “me-first” scrounger or a greedy corporatist in order to get elected either. Go him!

However. Would the governor’s true American values of honesty, integrity and hard work have won him a place in the Final Four on Big Brother? Probably not.

And when I finally did get back to my hotel room that evening, I turned on the TV in vain hopes of getting at least a tail-end glimpse of Matt and Monet on the block. Too late. But I did get to see a commercial paid for by Sharon Angle, a senatorial candidate here in Nevada. Angle looked like some sincere-but-seedy Sally Fields wannabe as she told a roomful of sweet-looking old people that government interference was ruining their lives.

Yeah sure, Sharon.

You say that you want to help all of America’s old people by getting rid of MediCare and Social Security? And just exactly HOW is that going to help us? If you truly want to get rid of Big Government, then just get us out of those pointless and meaningless “wars” in the Middle East — those bloody sink-holes that are eating our budgets and our souls alive. And you could also help us get rid of all those bailouts for bankers.

Then Van Jones spoke this morning and he said that progressive bloggers need to take the high road and set good examples for others by living up to America’s highest ideals. What? You want me to stop bashing those lying corporatists, neo-cons and talk-show hosts who have stolen our country, our morality and our ideals? Me? Nah.

Well, maybe I MIGHT consider being just a little bit nicer. Because, after all, I do want to get into Heaven — if for no other reason than because there won’t be any corporatists, liars, bigots, hard-hearted “me-first” types or right-wing radio talk-show hosts in Heaven at all.

PS: I just stuck my head into a room where the “Afghanistan: Where do we go from here?” workshop was being held. “How many Al Qaeda operatives are there in Afghanistan right now?” the moderator asked.

“50 to a hundred.”

“And we are spending one billion dollars a year in Afghanistan on capturing these 50 to a hundred Al Qaeda operatives?”

“That is correct.”

Then another reporter in the media room commented that when the U.S. military offered to give arms training to Afghan women, 10,000 women showed up. Those women are truly pissed off at Afghan men. Maybe we should send Afghan women out to Kandahar instead of the Marines. Just a thought.

July 22, 2010

Is Netroots Nation taking on the Israel-Palestine question? Er, maybe…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:05 pm

One of the most untouchable issues in America today is the Israel-Palestine situation. Whenever I blog about this subject, I seem to lose friends — not to mention getting irate e-mails and death threats. No other issue in politics today seems to have such a third rail. But now things seem to actually finally be changing.

For instance, this is the first year that Netroots Nation has actually agreed to host an Israel-Palestine caucus, which I attended — being very interested to see who would show up and also what their positions would be. Would we have right-wing rabbis screaming at us about Hamas rocket attacks? Would we have sad-eyed Palestinians in black and white checkered scarves mourning a homeland that they could never return to? Would there be confrontations or what?

But what we actually got were about ten participants, mostly from J Street. And we actually had a very nice talk. No one even yelled at anyone, not even me. But there were a hecka lot of issues to bring up and discuss. Too bad we only had the room booked for one hour.

“How can we make this issue less of a third rail so we can discuss it rationally and maybe even find some solutions?” was our first question. Good luck with that one.

“We need to talk about how Israel’s behavior is effecting our own national security,” was the next question. Okay. Let’s talk. “Israel and some of the policy-makers there are actually starting to change their position on Hamas.” But in which way?

“Israel is America’s foothold in the Middle East,” said an Israeli at the caucus. Ah. There’s the crux. You can’t exactly expect the Israeli power structure to behave itself when the American power structure does not. Torture? Land grabs? Illegal attacks? Even illegally dumping nuclear waste. Could Israel simply be copying the US’s bad behavior? Er, yeah.

“The right wing in America does something very well — they raise the cost of bringing this subject up, raise it to the point where the cost of discussing it becomes too high and the subject is then dropped. They change it into an emotional issue.” But the Right is now finding this harder and harder to do. “For instance, J Street has now become suddenly cool. We now get about a bizillion new resumes. We have tried to move this issue away from emotionalism. For instance, when you bring up cap and trade, no one calls you anti-Semitic. We want to see it that same way regarding policies about Israel.”

A rep from Media Matters was also at the caucus. “We are going to start delving into this area more — so things really ARE changing.” You mean that this area is finally becoming less of a third rail and that we can finally start discussing this issue intelligently? Yeah right.

“And what about the fallout from the flotilla?” I asked. “And what about dual American-Israel citizenship? Can we discuss that too?”

But just as I’m typing up the replies to my questions, Brad Friedman and John Fund walk into the media room and start arguing about Fund’s speech against ACORN on Fox News. Fund was upset by Friedman’s aggressiveness. But I’m upset because I’m trying to concentrate and write this I-P caucus stuff up before I forget it.

But no one seemed to want to discuss Israel’s brutal treatment of the humanitarian aid flotilla where nine people were killed in cold blood and many more were beaten and tortured. And what about dual citizenship? If the spit hits the fan, will these American side with America’s interests or with Israel’s? No one wanted to touch that question either.

“The Right offers the illusion of facts,” said another caucus participant. Not facts themselves — but the illusion of facts.” Then someone else added, “The urgency issue here is also being ignored.”

And I’m still trying to ignore Friedman and Fund, who are now yelling at each other again. “Do you think it was right to secretly videotape the ACORN interview?” Friedman is asking. Do I think it is right for Israeli commandos to secretly videotape their illegal attack on the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza!

Back to the caucus.

“The Israel-Palestine conflict is now under slow burn, even despite the flotilla media coverage. It’s like the environmental issue — where if we wait until it’s too late then it WILL be too late.” Yes, an Israeli attack on Iran could start World War III. That would definitely heat things up.

“There’s a polemic of fear in Israel regarding Iran. Plus U.S. behavior since 9-11 has created the feeling that regarding the ‘War on Terror,’ anything goes. And Israeli policy-makers have followed that cue. So it’s now like a piano falling from the sky — the way that anti-Israel sentiments are building up in America. But if we don’t continue this debate, then the child will continue to be spoiled.” Yes. And America needs to be stopped from acting like a spoiled child too.

Then Friedman stalked out and Fund went on blogging. And I went back to writing up my notes.

“The Israeli government always justifies their actions by bringing up Gilad Shalit. But even Shalit’s family is starting to feel that he is being used by the Israeli hard-liners.”

“We need to change the frame of the debate,” was the general consensus. Sure, but to what? To what is best for America, perhaps? And to what is best for Israel and Palestine too — because someone around here has to represent justice and democracy and not just to be out there grabbing up land and selling useless piles of weapons and trying to get a jump on the next decade’s resource wars. Oops. Too late. We are already engaged in the next decade’s resource wars now.

Then our caucus decided to ask Nancy Pelosi a question when she speaks at NN on Saturday — and the question that most of us finally agreed upon was this: “Do you support President Obama’s view that a two-state solution is in the U.S. national interest and that U.S. leadership is essential to achieving that goal?”

Me? I just wanted to ask her what she thought of Bibi Netanyahu’s statement that he could make the U.S. do whatever he wanted it to do — but that suggestion was shelved.

And then the caucus ended. Whew! And now that we’ve managed to solve all the problems of the Middle East, and Friedman and Fund are friends again (sort of), I gotta go run off to hear the next speakers.

Las Vegas: This place will be dead without cars

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 10:27 am

I finally made it to the Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas — even after some [clumsy person] knocked my glasses off my head and stepped on them on the plane, forcing me to stumble blindly through the Las Vegas airport. But some kind soul directed me to a hotel shuttle and, well, here I am — in what has got to be the car capital of the world.

On The Strip they have bunches of 50-story hotels but the most amazing buildings I drove by on the shuttle were the ten-story parking garages. Ten stories high and two blocks long, they were hotels for cars. Cars only. Only cars!

Twenty years from now, when the world runs out of oil, won’t people be SO embarrassed about having spent so much of their capital and infrastructure investments on cars. And wars. And other disposable consumer goods that nobody really needed.

Then I got to the Rio hotel, got my room on the 27th floor, admired the view of all those freeways, wandered down to the casino floor to watch hundreds of people gambling, regretted that I didn’t have the $54 necessary to attend the Chippendale show (just kidding) and tried to register for the convention.

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be speaking here on Saturday. And they will have a lot of explaining to do. Why are Republicans still setting the agenda for Congress? Why are we still spending all that money that we don’t have on all those stupid “wars” on the Middle East? And why are we still bailing out Wall Street but not Main Street?

Also Alan Grayson will be speaking here on Saturday as well — that is if he survives the death threats he’s been getting after Fox News stirred up all the wingnuts against him this week because he spoke out in favor of bailing out the jobless instead of the oligarchs. Sigh.

The keynote speaker tonight will be Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana. Plus I just scored a free ticket to the hotel’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

Stay tuned.

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